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Project focus: Hotel Triangel, Slovenia

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Consultant Primoz Cernigoj FCSI talks to Jim Banks about reinventing the kitchen of a historic hotel, renowned for decades for its fine food, introducing a modern approach to a simple, distinctive menu

This summer, the slopes of the Alps will witness the rebirth not only of the tourist industry, as Europe works its way out of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also of a historic hotel near Kranjska Gora in Slovenia. Since the 1950s the Hotel Triangel was known for its superb views and the high quality of its restaurant. Now, 15 years after it closed its doors to guests, it is hoping to rekindle that reputation.

For consultant Primož Cernigoj FCSI, who has overseen the refit of the kitchen, the revitalization of the hotel brings back poignant memories.

“As a kid of six or seven, my family would go to the mountains on holiday and my parents would take me to that restaurant,” he says. “There is a lot of history there.”

Located on the main road to Kranjska Gora, a thriving ski resort that frequently hosts World Cup ski races, the Triangel is a familiar sight for holidaymakers, all of whom pass it on the main road on their way to the town. Having seen time and the weather take their toll on the building over the last decade and a half, they will soon be able to see a rejuvenated hotel – the result of three years of planning, hard work and investment.

“When designing the Triangel Boutique Hotel, the brief was to create a small boutique hotel that will fit in with the beautiful Alpine landscape and where guests will feel at home and comfortable, while offering everything a four-star hotel has to offer,” says Matjaž Tičar, commercial director at DOM TRADE d.o.o., which operates the Triangel.

Key to the hotel’s success will be its restaurant, which will be a focal point for guests. The challenge faced by Cernigoj was to capture the atmosphere of the hotel while creating a modern and efficient kitchen in a limited space.

A two-tier kitchen

Cernigoj has worked as a kitchen planner for more than 20 years and has completed more than 500 projects, but the Triangel was a highlight for him, given his childhood memories of the place. When contacted by his business partner, Primož Hočevar, who was responsible for the overall architecture and design of the hotel, he realized just how vital the kitchen would be to the final project. He also understood the limitations that would come with designing an efficient kitchen for a small hotel.

“We had to work with the existing space,” he explains. “The main dimensions of the building had to stay the same. The ground floor was too small to house the whole kitchen, so we had to look around to find a different solution.”

What guests will see when they enter the restaurant is an open kitchen on the ground floor, where they can watch the chef prepare the day’s dishes. It will be an integral part of the intimate atmosphere that Triangel creates for holidaymakers. What they will not see, however, is the main preparation area in the basement.

“On the lower level is a 45 sq m kitchen that is connected to the ground floor by an elevator,” says Cernigoj. “This complicates the workflow, but we have dealt with that partly by keeping to a simple menu that gives the impression that the chef is cooking especially for each guest,” he says.

“A small menu that changes every day creates a home-made feel to the food,” he adds. “The waiter will not offer a guest a hundred different choices. It is more likely that the guests will arrive and ask the chef what he has cooked for them that day. The food is modern, simple and freshly made on
a daily basis.”

The focus is on quality rather than quantity. The menu emphasizes delicious food from local producers, based on home-made, local dishes, with a touch of the modern culinary world.

A modern approach to traditional style

Even with a limited menu, it is still a challenge to create a small basement kitchen that works efficiently. The grill, combi oven, induction range and beverage preparation areas are all situated upstairs in the show kitchen, where guests can see the chef at work, but the basement houses all of the storage, preparation and dishwashing areas.

“For us, BIM has been a major help in the kitchen design,” says Cernigoj. “We are among the first in Slovenia to use BIM, and this was the first time we had used it in a project in Slovenia. It enabled the client and the chef to better visualize the kitchen, as well as improving the accuracy for important elements such as the connection points for electricity and water.”

“It helped us to make better use of a small space and to bring that space to life so the chef could see the workflow,” he adds. “We used a virtual-reality model in our offices, so that he could see every detail at 1:1 scale. It made a huge difference compared to just looking at the plans.”

The ideas that Cernigoj developed for the kitchen, then rendered in a 3D model for the client to experience, have solved the problem of limited space and successfully combined efficiency, intimacy and high quality to create a restaurant fit for the Triangel.

“We were lucky that our main designer, the project manager responsible for the renovation, invited a renowned and experienced kitchen designer who really knew how to listen to our wishes,” says Tičar. “We are happy with the project, actually excited. Practically everything we wanted was included in the project.”

As the Hotel Triangel waits to open its doors, there is a sense of anticipation. The hospitality industry is preparing to welcome back both domestic and international tourists after an enforced break. As summer warms the mountain slopes, guests will find an old treasure has been polished ready for their arrival, and that a warm welcome and a hearty meal awaits them inside.

Jim Banks